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RBI plans to play own card against Visa,MasterCard

If things work out as planned,India may soon have a domestic payment card system — a rival to multinational card associations like Visa,Mastercard and American Express.

Written by ENS Economic Bureau | Mumbai |
November 13, 2009 8:57:39 am

If things work out as planned,India may soon have a domestic payment card system — a rival to multinational card associations like Visa,Mastercard and American Express. The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) is looking into the possibility of a domestic payment card which can handle credit/debit card transactions inside the country.

In its report on ‘Payment Systems in India: Vision 2009-12’,the RBI said it would look into the concept of a domestic payment card (India Card) and a PoS (point of sale) switch network for issuance and acceptance of payment cards. “The need for such a system arises from two major considerations — the high cost borne by the Indian banks for affiliation with international card associations (like Visa and Mastercard) in the absence of a domestic price setter and the connection with international card associations resulting in the need for routing even domestic transactions,which account for more than 90 per cent of the total,through a switch located outside the country,” it said.

As per the RBI Annual Report,the value of credit card transactions were Rs 65,356 crore in 2008-09,a 100 per cent jump in the last three years. This means almost Rs 60,000 crore was settled outside India through Visa and Mastercard — which act as the payment link on behalf of the bank,merchant and card holder — last year. Debit card transactions amounted to Rs 18,547 crore in 2008-09. The Indian Banks Association is also in favour of setting up a payment card.

The RBI is also planning to implement a 24-hour fund transfer system. The bank would pursue the suggestion to consider the need to extend NEFT (National Electronic Fund Transfer) to function on a 24×7 basis — seamless fund transfer without any break — or to develop a new system akin to the Faster Payments Service in the UK which operates on a 24×7 basis. The existing NEFT system operates during weekdays from 9 am to 5 pm and on Saturdays from 9 am to 12 noon. This will enable stock exchanges to extend trading hours and align their operations with other countries.

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The central bank said mobile phones are expected to emerge as an important channel for transmission of payment instructions. “Efficient mobile payments would require real time transfer of funds with adequate security. Currently all inter-bank mobile transfers are payment instructions for settling funds through existing payment systems. This would require building a national infrastructure for facilitating real time mobile payments,” it said.

Further,the RBI said it plans to bring all payment systems in operation in the country under its regulatory purview. Notification of the Payment and Settlement Systems Act,2007 empowers the RBI to regulate and oversee all payment systems. The existing and proposed payment systems will need to obtain authorisation from the bank to continue or commence operations. The central bank is expected to lay down operational and technical standards for the functioning of these systems,empowered to issue directions,call for information or returns,revoke authorisation and impose penalties,initiate prosecution proceedings for violations of the Act,the regulations,the directions issued by it and the terms and conditions of authorisation,it said.

The RBI indicated it would authorise new payment systems and operators of payment systems only if they add efficiency,increase customer convenience and bring in improvements to the payment system scope and activities in the country.

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